kiev in winter mariusz kluzniak/Flickr

The Living Legacy of Helsinki

Forty years ago, 35 countries, including the US and most of Europe, signed the Helsinki Final Act, setting the stage for the end of the Cold War. As violence in Ukraine rages on, Europe’s leaders would do well to reaffirm the principles underlying that world-changing pact.

VIENNA – Forty years ago, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe concluded with the signing of the Helsinki Final Act, a historic triumph of cooperation over conflict that set the stage for the end of the Cold War. The accord represented a revolutionary approach to comprehensive security, as well as to bilateral and multilateral relations. Its signatories recognized a direct link between political and military issues and human rights concerns – and that this link is a fundamental component of peace and security.

That is why, when Serbia was entrusted to lead the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which grew from the Helsinki conference, this year, we were looking forward to celebrating the accord’s many achievements on its 40th anniversary. But, with the resurgence of armed conflict in Europe challenging the Helsinki Final Act’s fundamental principles, this anniversary has taken on new meaning.

The crisis in Ukraine has, in fact, underscored the Final Act’s enduring relevance. Indeed, the only way to reconsolidate European security is to reach a durable settlement based on its principles; indeed, had those principles been respected, the current crisis in Ukraine would not have occurred in the first place.

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